Brighton and Hove On This Day by Dan Tester: Saturday January 6 1973

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Maria Colwell was killed by her stepfather, William Kepple.

Born in 1965, the young girl was fostered at an early age and was a happy child.

This changed when she returned to live with her biological mother, Pauline, in Whitehawk, who was no longer co-habiting with Maria’s father.

She had a new partner, Kepple, who had children of his own, who he clearly favoured.

Caring neighbours and teachers communicated concerns to various agencies and, even though she appeared to be ‘almost a walking skeleton’, she was allowed to remain with Kepple and her step-siblings.

She was wheeled in a pram to the Royal Sussex County Hospital on this day with severe internal injuries, including brain damage, and died shortly after arrival.

The case resulted in a 41-day public inquiry and on November 2nd 1974 a ‘Maria Day’ rally was held in Trafalgar Square, London.

The thousand people in attendance called for reforms in the law.

The result was the passing of the 1975 Children Act, and reforms to social services departments.